August & September Update
August: Bronchitis in Bolivia
Oh August, thank you for welcoming me into this month with a nice dose of Bronchitis. What I thought was just a small cough and sore throat at the start of the month quickly developed into what I later found out was some intense bronchitis. Although being sick far from home is never fun, it did allow me to have some experiences I would have never had if I hadn’t been sick. First thing was visiting the international clinic here in La Paz. This clinic is run specifically for expats and is one of the nicest doctors offices I’ve ever been to! The staff was so nice and caring and immediately gave me medicine for what, at the time, we thought was a mild cold. After three days of becoming increasingly worse, I went back to the clinic and was finally diagnosed with bronchitis and put on strong antibiotics and decongestants and finally on the way back to health.
During this time, I wasalone in the apartment for quite a few days. At first I was enjoying being able to rest at home and binge on all my favorite sick movies and shows (among these: The Princess Bride, Sense and Sensibility, and Downton Abbey). But by the sixth day I was feeling pretty restless, and like any normal person, I decided to rearrange my entire living room without telling my two roommates. Don’t worry though! I did inform them of what I had done and told them I would put everything back to the way it was if they didn’t like it! They ended up liking it though and adding a few of their own changes.
I was finally able to come back to the office after many days of rest and had a very sweet welcome back from my colleagues who were all very concerned about my health and convinced I had eaten something bad even though I assured them I went to the doctor and it had nothing to do with food.
One change I am not happy about particularly is that our beloved Ellie is leaving at the end of September. Ellie is our administrative intern and the point of contact for all of us new gringas. She has been so incredibly helpful in these past two months of adjusting and learning and I can’t really imagine Bolivia or the office without her. BUT, luckily enough she is getting married in June of 2018 and I will for sure be there. So, this is not a goodbye, but more of a see you soon.
Speaking of Ellie’s wedding! This month has been filled of dress fittings and wedding planning, which for those who know me well you will know that I am pretty much ecstatic about that. Even though I was sick for some of Ellie’s fittings I ventured out with her just so I could see the whole process and I am happy to report that her custom made Bolivian gown is absolutely stunning and perfect for her!
Another super fun thing Ellie and I did together this month was order our custom made leather jackets. There is a man here in La Paz who makes beautifully made leather jackets exactly to your measurements and design! We still are waiting on them to be finished, but I can’t wait to pick mine up. It was so fun to see the process of how he makes the jackets and gets the materials instead of just walking into a store and picking out a jacket.
I’ve absolutely loved the stark differences of shopping here in Bolivia versus how it is back in the states. From grocery shopping, to ordering a leather jacket, the process is completely different. Because of where the leather jacket and wedding dress places are, Ellie and I would venture pretty far into the center of La Paz where the best market is: El Mercado Rodriguez. And since we were there already we did most of our grocery shopping (and flower shopping!) there. This is where most of the caseras (stall owners) set up their stalls and sell anything from fruits and vegetables to furniture and mattresses.
On one such adventure, I was able to purchase a new mattress for my bed and then hail a taxi to attach it to the roof and drive me home. It was pretty freaking awesome: first to barter with the casera selling me the mattress and get the price down, and then to just casually ask a taxi driver to take me home with my purchase. On a more normal day I would have come home with a large bag full of fruits and vegetables and some delicious bakery goods and maybe even some flowers.
Overall, this month has been a continued time of adjusting to life here in La Paz, but I definitely feel more and more at home and settled into a routine. Unfortunately, I ended off this month with a very strange bout of stomach flu or something we still aren’t quite sure. Something seems to be making it’s way around the office and August seems to be the month of sickness. But, most of us are back to normal and hopefully September will be a new and very healthy month!
Super High Highs and Really Low Lows
September was a month full of exciting adventures and some difficult changes. I had my first visit, which allowed me to play
the hostess for the first time in my new city. I also had to say goodbye to Ellie, who has become a fast friend and important part of my support system here in La Paz. Luckily I will be seeing her again in June for her WEDDING! I spent a lot of time with her coming to dress fittings and actually will be the one doing her hair and makeup for the wedding. We did a little practice wedding day at the beginning of this month which was so fun. I can’t wait to celebrate her and her soon to be husband in Mexico in June 2018!
I kicked off the month of September with a semi surprise visit from my friend Anahi. I was able to take a week off of work and really enjoy La Paz for the first time as a tourist having my own little staycation! Among some of the awesome things we did were: an amazing all-you-can-eat brunch at a swanky hotel here (this is one of the gringas’ favorite things to do for a special occasion, especially since it equals to about 10 american dollars!), Valle de la Luna, a sunset teleferico ride, going out dancing for the first time with coworkers, and exploring fun new restaurants in the city. It was amazing to get to take a break from work enjoying this marvelous city and showing someone from home what my new life is like here.
Anahi left mid september and it was back to the work grind. Although, at 2.5 months I feel pretty secure in my job and what’s expected of me, coming back to work became a bit stressful due to the fact that I was getting ready to take over for Ellie once she left at the end of the month. All I can say is that I don’t know what I would have done these first three months without that girl! Ellie was the first person to welcome me to La Paz and help me set up my life here and over the past few months she has continued to support me and care for me. I am very sad to see her leave and a bit stressed thinking about filling her shoes for the next few months, but she spent her last few weeks at work helping me adjust to all the changes and leaving me feeling as equipped as possible to take on these new tasks.
Speaking of new tasks at work, an exciting new project I’ve been given has been to record the audio for a book that our projects team is distributing throughout the courts in La Paz. I’ve never recorded an audio book before and am still not super sure if my spanish is up for the task, but it’s definitely been a fun new challenge and also some very interesting and relevant reading material. It is a resource in spanish about child victims of sexual assault that will be incredibly helpful for judges and lawyers here to have a deeper understanding of how to treat children like our clients at IJM Bolivia.
On a personal level in the office, I am feeling more and more like a part of the team and forging new and fun relationships with my coworkers. It seems that a nickname that has stuck for me around the office is “Clarissa” and I love it. Also, during our quarterly retreat, it was discovered by most of the office that I am a lover of reggaeton music during a very competitive game of musical chairs and my coworkers broke out in laughter as they watched me sing along to almost every song. Another hilarious office anecdote was when our Director of HR, Raul, was announcing a funny video I had made to get our office pumped for some technology updates and he referred to me as “la flamante pasante”, which roughly translates to the flamboyant intern! The entire office cracked up and I was left wondering what kind of impression I have left on my team these past three months.
September was a stark change from the sickness filled month of August, bringing on new challenges and adventures. I am continuing to learn so much from everyone around me and myself as I do life in this wonderful country. Looking forward to the next few months and what new things I will get to learn and do!